The market choosing to buy or not buy fish from a specific fishery will not improve the state of that fishery, Fisheries Expert Advisor to retail giant Marks and Spencer Mike Mitchell told attendees at the UK Seafood Summit this week.
The job also lies in the hands of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMO) to set quotas and enforce them in order to lead the industry to more sustainable fisheries.
"There has been an ever-changing political and environmental landscape in which we operate driving the need to develop novel strategies to take industry forward," said Mitchell, who has been in the industry for more than four decades.
The issue now is that consumers are now ever-more connected digitally and involved in sustainability, so the industry needs to keep change going and there is a long way forward, he said.
One way is to dispel myths so the industry can relay a better message to the consumers, especially highlighting all of the improvements and efforts the industry has already made.
The concept of Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIP), for example, never existed in the commercial world, but now all the industry sees it as a part of their daily coinage, Mitchell said.
"This is not a completed journey though and we need to continue evolving, so where do our priorities sit in the next phase?" Mitchell asked.
The issue is beyond just the FIP toolbox and compliance because the rest of the fisheries need to be developed and improved in a politically advocacy FIP.
"If we have sufficient support across nations buying fish, then maybe you will have influence over global management of a stock," Mitchell said. "It is how we influence policy makers without being perceived as green-washers."